About a thousand indigenous people in the southern Philippine province of Bukidnon who were driven from their land by armed men four years ago expressed hope that they would return home soon.
Members of the Manobo-Pulangihon tribe have been living on a roadside in the town of Quezon since 2017 after they were driven away from their land by armed security personnel of a corporation.
They lived on the side of the road in makeshift dwellings with no running water, no electricity, no source of livelihood or food, and no help from the government.
The situation has gotten so bad that parents have to tie their children’s feet to prevent them from wandering out to search for food.
“The children have suffered the most,” said Arnel Angcosin, secretary general of the Kiantig Manobo-Pulangihon Tribal Association. “Many of them have gotten sick due to the poor living condition.”
The tribe has been asserting that that the land they have been living in the village of Kiantig Butong is their ancestral domain.
A company, however, was able to get a contract from the government to occupy 995 hectares of the land under a Forest Land Graze Management Agreement.
The deal, which took effect in 1986, has already expired in 2018, but the people have been forcibly evicted from the land in 2017.
The government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources have also relinquished jurisdiction over the property and turned it over to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
“We are optimistic that we can finally go back to our homes, to our ancestral land. We hope it won’t be long,” said Angcosin in an interview with LiCAS.news on July 28.
“We can wait as long as we know that we can legally go back and live again in our ancestral land.”